I thought the days of British car-makers dragging defeat from the jaws of victory were long gone in the modern era of more professional management. But Land Rover’s absence from the Cobo Hall on the day the Evoque scooped the prestigious North American Truck of the Year must rank as one of the dumbest marketing decisions made by Brits for a long time.
Given the historical importance of the US market to JLR, and Land Rover in particular, the decision to turn its back on Detroit was a strange one in itself, regardless of whether a major gong was in the offing.
In past years, Jaguar has exported half its output to the US and in dark times, sales in America kept the company afloat. Land Rover is less reliant on the US, but the world’s biggest SUV market is still hugely significant to a company whose sales are dominated by 4x4s.
But you also have to wonder why Land Rover’s US operation was not able to feedback the significance of a possible Evoque win to HQ in Gaydon?
And then how the Gaydon management machine failed to join-the-dots and at least consider that the Evoque might be a short-listed contender for NA ToTY, therefore making an appearance at Detroit essential?
On the face of it, JLR made the judgement call to exhibit at Delhi instead of Detroit, although the company says India is so much cheaper to attend that the comparison is unfair.
I also heard execs argue that the US budget was better targetted at LA before Christmas, where new Defender concepts were unveiled.
At least JLR’s top bosses managed to divert themselves from Delhi to pick-up the Evoque award.
Anyway, the scale of the Evoque’s tremendous victory in the US can be judged by the fact that the last British car to scoop a major US award was the Mini Cooper, NA CoTY in 2003. Previous to that the Discovery was short-listed for ToTY in 1994 and the Jag XK for CoTY in 1997.
But what a missed opportunity with the world’s media watching — plus the top bosses of arch-rivals from America, Germany and Japan — not to have the brilliant Evoque proudly on its stand alongside the Truck of the Year Award.
Given the money that’s sometimes lavished on obscure PR opportunities, missing an open goal like this surely requires a degree of internal navel-gazing in the senior management at Gaydon?
Incidentally, for some reason, JLR has mixed form when it comes to Detroit. A few years ago, the US magazine that I also write for voted the C-XF concept best in show at the 2007 Detroit Show.
Editors were not best pleased when Jaguar crated up the handsome C-XF and withdrew it from the show on public days, so that paying visitors and readers of the mag couldn’t see the headline grabbing award winner. Which makes the Evoque episode an unfortunate repeat of history.